Since moving to France, I’ve made a concerted effort to see more of my current home. To stay in France and only see Paris is like going to the United States and only seeing New York City or Los Angeles. While major cities are great, they aren’t indicative of what an entire country is like (you’d never compare Los Angeles to Memphis or Dallas to Chicago).
The extensive SNCF train network in France, coupled with the relatively small size of the country (as compared to the United States) makes it a bit easier to travel around. In the past 9 months of my expat life, I’ve journeyed to Lyon, Annecy, Bayeux, Normandy, the Champagne region (Reims and Epernay), Nice and Cannes.
In addition to wanting to see more of the country, I think it’s important to find favorite places within your country that are great for quick getaways. My personal favorites in the United States are Miami, Florida and Los Angeles, California. I’ve been so many times I’ve lost count! I even lived in Los Angeles for a month!
I found the perfect getaway in France when I recently took a trip to Annecy. Annecy, in the western region of France, is close to Switzerland and at the foothills of the Alps. Several years ago, while still living in NYC, I saw a random picture online of Annecy – the picturesque Lac d’Annecy, with the backdrop of the Alps, the quaint village-like buildings and the winding canals. I fell in love with the city once I saw that picture and decided that I would someday travel there.
My love for Annecy only grew once I started watching the French TV show, Les Revenants, on Netflix. I watched the show in preparation for my move and was surprised to see that the show was shot in the region. (While not filmed in Annecy, it’s filmed in Annecy-Le-Vieux, which is the next town over.) When I moved to Paris in August of 2016, I immediately started plotting on when I’d get to see the city in person.
Pictures do not do Annecy justice.
How to Get to Annecy
Only a 4-hour train ride from Paris, the city is small and quiet – although much less so during the summer months. The train ride ranges from 25 to 50 euros and is an incredibly scenic ride. Annecy is also a short hop from Lyon, which makes it perfect to add-on to a trip there. If the bustle of Paris and Lyon is too much for you, you can carve out time to relax in Annecy. Annecy is also a short drive or bus trip from Geneva, Switzerland – just 22 miles away.
Getting around Annecy is fairly easy if the weather is good. I walked everywhere – including from the train station to my hotel. The train station drops you off in the city center and it’s only a short walk to the Old Town if you’re staying there.
The Old Town (Vielle Ville) is the most popular part of the city, famous for its canal. You can spend hours wandering the tiny streets – don’t use a map! I found that after a day of wandering the Old Town, I knew my way around fairly quickly.
Taxis are available if you need them, as well as public transportation buses.
Where to Stay in Annecy
I prefer staying in hotels if my budget can afford it and this time it could. I stayed in the Ibis Annecy Centre Vielle Ville Hotel – not an upscale hotel, but nicely appointed and a GREAT location. The hotel is located in Old Town and right on the water. My room was a normal size for European hotels and they had a great bar/lounge area in the lobby. I would definitely stay there again. The rooms start at 96 euros per night.
If hotels aren’t your thing, there are plenty of Airbnbs available in Annecy as well. If you’re looking for convenience, be sure to stay near Old Town. Since the Alps are nearby, there are a lot of accommodations that are a bit farther out for those that want to do some skiing. If that’s not your thing, you’ll be disappointed you stayed so far away. There didn’t seem to be a big Uber presence in the city.
If you’d like to stay in an Airbnb, here’s a few that you can check out! Click the picture to see the listing.
What to Do in Annecy
Annecy has a low-key vibe, which was exactly what I wanted on this trip. If you’re looking to turn up, this may not be the place for you. There are a few sights to see and lots of nature to enjoy.
Vielle Ville – Old Town
I spent so much of my trip wandering the Old Town – it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve been. Just follow the canal and get lost on the cobblestone streets.
There’s also good shopping and good food to be had in this area. For candle lovers, there’s a great candle boutique, Audine-Bougies Parfumées – these candles are not available in Paris! If you’re an ice cream lover, I noticed an extraordinary number of ice cream shops – and I tried as many of them as I could! I recommend the ice cream shop near the Hotel de Ville, Glacier Perrière. Lots of flavors and very good! Also try the food of the Haute-Savoie region! This region is known for cheese and potato dishes, like the specialty tartiflette. Tartiflette is a baked dish of potatoes, reblochon cheese, onions and bacon. I tried it at L’Atlas Restaurant and LOVED it.
Twice weekly, there’s also a market in Old Town. It was a pleasant surprise and I spent way too much money there. There were quite a bit of free samples too 🙂
Old Town is also where you’ll see the spot of the most famous picture of Annecy. Make sure to stop on that bridge and get your picture! Unfortunately, the Palais de L’Ilse in the photo is under renovations, so the picture doesn’t look the same anymore! Check the website before planning to go in.
Just outside of Old Town, there’s the Chateau d’Annecy. I attempted to go on my visit, but it was closed for the day! Also there was a bit of renovations, so it didn’t look like the pictures, from the exterior. It was a nice walk, but uphill part of the way. Don’t make my mistake – it’s closed on Tuesdays in the low season.
Basilique de la Visitation
If you haven’t had enough of uphill walks, check out the Basilique de la Visitation. Perched on top of a hill, the parking lot gives a good view of the town.
Lake Annecy is the biggest tourist attraction in the city. The majestic lake is a beautiful sparkling blue color – it rivals the Caribbean or Mediterranean waters. On one side of the lake is the Jardins De L’Europe. It’s a popular hangout spot, complete with a carousel, playgrounds and plenty of benches to sit by the water and contemplate life. The park is not too far from a Monoprix – stop off and get some snacks and have a picnic, like so many others were doing.
During the summer, there are various boats that will take you on a lake cruise or you can rent a paddle boat to go on your own. Water sports are also offered on the lake, such as waterskiing, wakeboarding, sailing, and paddleboarding.
Take a picture at the Pont des Amours, aka Lover’s Bridge, at the very beginning of the park. You may have to wait your turn – there was quite a lineup! But the spot offers the perfect backdrop for a great picture.
Annecy is the perfect spot to decompress from city life – I plan to go there time and time again. Whether you’re in need of a solo trip or a couples getaway – you won’t regret your time there!
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